The Story: Blood Red, by indie writer Jason Bovberg, follows teen protagonist Rachel as she struggles to discover what has happened to her world. People are literally dying in the streets but they’re not staying dead. As she races to find her father amid the erupting chaos, she joins up with some friends and allies as they try to piece together why their world is falling apart.
My Take: This novel isn’t anything new in the apocalyptic vein other than the focus is more on uncovering what the heck is going on as opposed to trying to survive. But if any of this sounds like the makings of a zombie story a la “The Walking Dead,” well…eh…
You’re going to be sorely disappointed.
At the risk of revealing spoilers (at least for now), all I’ll say is that the reanimated corpses aren’t true zombies, at least probably not in the way you’re used to. Now I’m all for switching things up and, to be fair, this mystery element of what was happening to these bodies was the only thing that forced me to finish the book. But when I finally got to the truth of the matter, it was just…well…
Yeah. Not that great.
What really hurts this novel is that it seems to go on forever due to a simple plot and lack of description. Many, if not most, scenes are black boxes, meaning there are characters talking without a good sense of where they are in the story’s physical environment. I think a story like this that’s so grounded in delivering dialogue and relating basic action would have made a better short story than a novel.
The central plot is that Rachel must find her dad, hoping against all odds that he’s still alive (as opposed to a red light-spewing zombie-thing). That’s it. No strong sub-plots. No twists and turns. It’s just Rachel on the run, Rachel stopping for a moment of exposition from another character, Rachel getting into a tight spot (usually due to someone doing something stupid), and then back to Rachel on the run. In short and, once more, Blood Red reads more like a long short story with a larger cast of characters.
Other than Rachel, I can’t even remember anyone else’s names and my mind isn’t that slippery. The main issue was that I felt like I was hearing the same character talk throughout the whole book. No one had anything distinctive about their delivery or personality, not even Rachel. Rachel was just okay and I’ll give her credit that she at least tries to be resourceful and doesn’t curl into a ball and cry. But she’s no Katniss Everdeen, I’m just sayin’.
But what really frustrated me was the ending. Again, I won’t reveal spoilers here but it was definitely not worth it. Not to be mean, but I’ve watched “SpongeBob SquarePants” episodes with better payoffs. Blood Red‘s only payoff was that it was actually done after 257 pages. And that was 257 pages too long.
Now if you want to know how this novel ends, please scroll down…
It’s actually aliens (yep – aliens) who are taking over the dead bodies and bringing them back to life for the sole reason of…um…. World domination? Boredom? I’m still not sure. Anyway, the only way to destroy the reanimated corpses is to expose them to type-O negative blood. Yet the way to reverse the alien’s foothold is to either (a). suffocate the reanimated corpse so the red light can’t escape or (b). inject the corpse with type-O negative blood. Maybe this could have been a doable idea, but it was set up and executed so swiftly that it felt like a deus ex machina with a dash of hand-waving.
Okay, end of spoilers – you may now read on without fear!
Language – Frequent use of PG-13 and R-level language though it’s not on every page.
Violence – There is a perilous, fear-driven tone mingled with scenes of gore, violence, and death. If this was a movie, it would easily garner an R-rating. While it didn’t turn my stomach, the description of how the corpses ambulate is creepy (hint: it’s not on two legs). But the most disturbing scene is when a corpse gives birth; that was gut-churning and I have a fairly strong stomach.
Sexual Material – It’s implied that Rachel and her boyfriend have been sexually active though nothing is ever shown or described. Likewise, early on, Rachel sees her stepmother naked by accident, but this is played strictly for creeps and isn’t even remotely sexual.
I honestly can’t recommend Blood Red. If older teens and adults are really into the horror genre and will honestly read anything, then they might like it. But for anyone younger than 16, this isn’t appropriate. Nor is it an insightful or an engaging read for anyone else.
Overall, this novel was not my thing. Its plot could have been reduced to a short story, its characters were one-dimensional, and once you find out what’s causing all of the ruckus it’s just kind of nothing.
And…wait a minute… This book says it’s Book One. You mean there’s more?
No. Just…no. At least I hope not because I honestly have no idea what else there could be to work with. Sometimes stories just need to stand alone. You can have a single novel and make it work though this novel didn’t work even by itself.